Preview 64 of 82: Thunder @ Suns

Time: 8:00 PM CT

TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma

Radio: WWLS (98.1 FM OKC / 97.1 FM Tulsa)

Game Notes: Thunder / Suns

Which is worse? The fact that the Thunder has lost three straight against the Suns, or the fact that the Suns have only won three games since January 7? This question is one of many puzzling queries in what has become perhaps the most enigmatic Thunder season ever. One day the team is blowing out an elite opponent by 15 points, the next it’s blowing a 15-point lead over the worst team.

There are only 19 games left in the season and it feels like the odds of the Thunder making the Western Conference Finals are just as likely as the odds of them not making the playoffs at all.* So what will happen tonight when the Thunder returns to Phoenix to face arguably the worst team in the NBA? Honestly, your guess is as good as mine.

*Not actually. ESPN has the Thunder’s odds of making the playoffs at 94.5 percent & odds of winning the title at 0.5 percent.

Tip-off is at 8:00 PM CT and will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma. The Thunder is an 8-point favorite on the road according to Odds Shark.


Injury Report

Thunder

  • Andre Roberson: Out – Knee

Suns

  • Tyson Chandler: Questionable — Neck
  • TJ Warren: Questionable — Pelvis
  • Brandon Knight: Out — Knee
  • Alan Williams: Out — Knee

Probable Starters

Suns: Elfrid Payton, Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Dragan Bender, Alex Len


Statistics

Traditional

TeamPFPAREBASTSTLBLKTOFG%3P%
OKC106.4103.545.121.294.913.545.235
PHX104.411344.2216.84.514.944.133.2

Four Factors

TeamEFG%FTA RateTOV%OREB%OPP EFG%OPP FTAOPP TOV%OPP OREB%
OKC51.10.26614.228.352.50.25416.122.2
PHX49.30.28515.123.3530.28713.123.5

Synergy Sports

Click to Enlarge

Thunder O & D

Suns O & D


Previous Results

Jan. 7: PHX 114, OKC 100 [BOX SCORE]


Notes

Welcome, Corey Brewer! Former NBA champion, Corey Brewer, has officially agreed to sign with the Thunder. After clearing waivers today, he will fill the 15th and final roster spot for OKC. He will not suit up for tonight’s game against the Suns (as he is currently in OKC), but will likely make his Thunder debut on Tuesday versus the Rockets at home. While Brewer probably won’t be the saving grace for a tumultuous Thunder team, he is a legitimate veteran asset.

Huestis Hustle. Looking at the box score, it might not seem like Huestis is helping the starting lineup much. In his past six starts, he’s averaging just 3.0 points and 1.7 rebounds per game. However, his defensive acuity is certainly a step up from Alex Abrines and Terrance Ferguson. He can usually keep up with the switches, defend the three-point line without fouling, and contribute a monster block now and then. Coach Donovan hinted that he will stick with Huestis in the starting five for the rest of the season, but with the addition of Brewer, Donovan might opt for a more seasoned starting shooting guard in the playoffs. Regardless, finding a defensive equivalent to Roberson mid-season was an impossible task, so in that regard, Huestis or Brewer will have to be sufficient.

Triple Threat. In the Thunder’s last meeting with the Suns, Phoenix dropped a season-high 17 threes on OKC with Devin Booker accounting for five and Dragan Bender contributing a career-high six. In previous games, especially since losing Roberson, the Thunder has struggled to stifle a hot three-point shooter. If the Thunder wants to avoid losing an early lead, defending the three-point line and minimizing open threes by the Suns will be crucial. That effort starts with Booker, who’s hitting 37.6 percent on seven three-point attempts per game.

Survive and Advance. There’s a new March Madness in basketball and it’s the Western Conference race for the playoffs. Currently, one game separates the 3rd and 7th seeds in the West. The Thunder is in the mix with Minnesota, Portland, San Antonio, New Orleans, and Denver. OKC has already lost the season-series versus Minnesota and New Orleans. However, there’s the potential to split the series with Portland and Denver and win the series against San Antonio. The Thunder’s remaining games against Portland (Saturday), Denver, and San Antonio are absolute must-wins in the event of a tied regular season record which now seems like a real possibility. All of that matters less if OKC can’t take care of teams like Phoenix.


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